Monday, October 28, 2013

Turtle, Turtle, Turtle (Realistic Goals)

I've always heard the staying, "It takes as long as it takes," but dang. Best laid plans aside, I didn't finish my five-book YA Paranormal Thriller series in six months. Not even in a year. The year-and-a-half mark is fast approaching, and I'm still trekking along.

Pesky health issues that affected my energy levels and focus ssssslllllloooowwwed my pace to a turtle's stroll.

First off, no whining or complaints here. I've continued to draft, put in, revise, edit, and polish. Still... Okay, maybe a mini whinefest, in that I realize and know in every fiber of my being how much I am capable of accomplishing, if it weren't for those uber frustrating health issues. 

Recently, I came across this quote:

Never give up on a dream, just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. -- Earl Nightingale.

No, I am not yet published. Nope, I have not made any money with my books, a little hard to do when they're not finished and/or published and all. So many story and series ideas, just waiting... Many, many more books to be written.

However, I have not fully written these. Book #1 goes on to the formatter in the next week or so. Book #2 is one-third of the way into the revision process.

And, true to form for this past year, that dratted dreaded health issue is back. More doctor's appointments coming up.

Yet, everyday, I drag myself to the computer and work on this series.


Because this series waited a long time to be written. After all, there's that writer part of me that must write, so it stands to reason I must finish these books. IF they were lackluster and sub-par, I would, surprisingly, have no problem setting them aside and moving on; however, they do have a bit of oomph to them, if I do say so myself.

Besides, it's not the story or the actual revision that's slowing me down, it's the level of fatigue, disrupted sleep, and focus challenges that block me from making the kind of progress I would like to make.

Ideally, I'd be cranking out a finished book a month. My logical mind, creativity, and process are up to it. I, however, physically am not. Therefore, out of kindness to myself, I am tacking each day, trying to accomplish as much as possible on one day at a time, without setting any further goals than that of the day before me.

Today I cull repetative words and phrases from as many chapters as feasible possible. Tomorrow I do the same. I keep plugging. And eventually...before I realize it, I'll have a finished book. Then another one. Then another. As I turtle along.

Earl Nightingale was correct. No matter how I spend my time, time passes anyway. As a writer, I can't imagine a better way to fill my days.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blocked and Loving It!

No, I am not experiencing writer's block, thank goodness!

In order to work on revisions, I blocked my access to the internet; thus, I achieved more in two days this week than I have been accomplishing in an average week.

LeechBlock, part of Mozilla Foxfire, blocks websites and internet access. So, right now, except for, I only visit the internet a short time in the morning, mid-day, and then in the evening.

Numerous bosses over the years have delivered a similar message. If you're going to accomplish your goals, you have to pay the price. To get something, you've got to give (or give up) something. The definition of insanity... But I digress.

To achieve my writing goals, there are some things I have to give up in order to make the time to write. There's no other way to make the time, take the time, and use the time to write.

Television time is limited, housework takes a back burner, leisure time...well, I did go see an awesome movie one day this week. For the last two weeks, I've taken at least one partial day as a non-writing day in order to rejuvenate, maintain my enthusiasm, and keep my writing fresh.

Writing can be, and most times is, a solitary and lonely task. While performing writing-related tasks, connecting with others on instant messaging and social networking sites grants me an emotional link that is sometimes missed while working on single-person projects.

I so enjoy visiting with folks on line. Thank you Facebook friends and family, for your encouragement, caring, and patience for my single-mindedness on finishing this book series. I may slip away into the writing world for a while, but I'll check in and visit, so please do stay in touch and share with me what is going on in your lives.

An awesome portrait artist shared  this technique. She unplugs from the internet and paints for hours. To enter that creative sphere, she plays instrumental music, gets into the zone, and enjoys the process.

Well, blocked and loving it... I may just get this series finished yet!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cheers and Fears (Now what?)

Finally, I was able to open the edited file of Book #1. The editing suggestions were concise and minor. Truth be told, much less than I expected and dreaded. Once I started accepting and making the final edits, I realized I wasn't dreading the effort or the degree, but the actual completion of the book. Huh! What's up with that?

The whole point of writing a book is finishing it and publishing it, right? After all, I want to "write books and make a living doing the same." To write books means to actually FINISH the books (drafting, putting in, revising, editing, and publishing). Yet, now that Book #1 is nearly finished, fear and panic has set in.

Instead of, "The book is finished, whoot!," I am experiencing "No way can this book be finished!"

I think due to ingrained beliefs, "finished" in this instance translates into "not good enough." Not good enough is one of those handed-down messages that I have carried internally since early childhood. The understanding that I as a person was not good enough or that anything I did or tried to accomplish was never good enough or no matter the effort, time, and caring would ever be good enough, seeped in, stuck, and has fought against me my entire life.

Author Dean Wesley Smith's recent blog comment states, "Just keep going back and writing more words. Even if you think they suck, which I am 100% convinced every word I write does." So, I suppose this sort of belief is fairly common among writers. At least, I'm in good company. ;-)

As I have done many times before, despite self-doubts and facing a not-good-enough scenario, I keep on keeping on. Today, I will finish the edits, do a final read through, and return to the editor for one last review. THEN the book is ready for formatting for publication (Yikes and Yippee!).

One step at a time. One day at a time. You can actually write a book that way. Despite not feeling or thinking you or your writing is good enough. Because if this good-enough writer gal can do it, anyone can. Honest!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Matter of Time and Time Matters

After years of not punching in and out on a time clock, I'm back on the clock! Using Klok Personal Time Tracking software has made time tracking EASY and has tripled my writing productivity.

I have added other tasks to track, such as blogging, decluttering, etc. There's a timesheet view, to check progress, as well as a chart view that depicts time each day and time spent on each timed project.

One of my favorite features is a drag and drop of the current project starts the timer for working on the project. When you finish a session, click the red stop button and the timer stops, so it's that simple to keep up with time spent on individual project tasks.

In the week view, I can see how much time I've spent on various task each day, with a total of how much time during each day worked.

Utilizing this software provides a means of accountability that has worked wonders for my schedule and for my progress, and the amazing thing is, I am accomplishing more writing-wise and otherwise.

Klok is an awesome tracking tool, one which I would definitely recommend!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Trick or Treat? (My Edits Are Back!)

The edited file of Book #1 sits in an email as an attachment. The email came in early morning. My first reaction was a gut-punch thrill (It's here. I'm finally to the real-live THE END phase. OMG!) then panic pounded in my chest like a jackhammer. An hour later, I still can't bring myself to open the file...

The Editor's note mentions minor grammatical edits and a few confusing sentences that need to be clarified.

But what's REALLY in that file? I wonder...

This time of year, you never know what goblins might lurk around the next corner. Now, I know the Editor is an awesome editor, professional and forthright, but still.

What if there are pages and pages of markups? What if every page has so many markups they look like spiderwebs? What if I don't "get" now to fix the edits? What if I'm not up to the task? When I look at the webbed pages, will I spaz out? Go into full-blown panic attack mode. Not being able to breathe, unable to explain that I've been attacked by the goblins in an electronic file. If I open it, and even after the Editor's most awesome effort, the words don't pop?

Okay, apparently self-doubt is the goblin in question. From what I understand, Doubt is the most insidious of the gremlins out to undermine writerly joy.

Maybe I'll download the file first. Not open it. When I do, I'll peek, one eye shut, like out from under the covers when things go bump in the night. Or when there's a knock on the door (email in the box), and my hand hovers over the doorknob (finger over the mouse button). I sip air, then forget to breathe. My hand trembles. I turn the knob (click open).

I suck in mouthful of air. Panic grips my chest.

It's time...

Trick or Treat?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hooded Eyelids and Other Character Flaws

Just like for each of us in real life, character flaws can define who a fictional character is, where they are coming from, and why they are behaving the way they behave.

In a former job, a coworker continually shared facial exercise techniques to decrease the hooded above-eye area. I, Miss Slow-on-the-Uptake, didn't realize, until I interrupted her one day so I could finish a project and she drilled me with the "look", that the hooded lids she targeted were mine. (I get the title Miss Slow-on-the-Uptake honestly.)

Looking back, I wonder why was the hoodedness of my eyelids such a priority to this person?

If her suggestions came from caring, perhaps she would have come in early to help relieve me of some of my tasks so that I wasn't so hoodedly exhausted. Or brought back lunch from her two- to three-hour lunch break. Maybe, when she left work at 4PM, she might have even offered to take some of my workload home with her so that exhaustion didn't weigh down my eyelids so much.

Now, if she were a consider-the-source type of person, her upper lids would have been toned to the max, right? All the facial excercises she encrouaged would have tightened and toned such things as jowls and chins, so she might have been sharing out of enthusiasm... Nah. No learning by example there.

The WAY she presented the techniques is telling. She demonstrated the techniques loudly, in an office environment, sometimes in front of several others. A put down? An inner-office joke? A my-upper-lids-are-more-toned-than-yours taunt?

After I left the job, an amazing thing happened. Those upper eyelid hoods receded more than a bit. And guess what, thanks to that former co-worker, I have personally demonstrated exercises to take care of the rest of potential drooping hoods.

Honestly, because of the way I was raised to treat people and respect people's personal issues, her showing me what was "wrong" with me did not even sink in initially. I would never, ever point out so-called deficiencies. For instance, openly demonstrating neck, chin, and lower cheek-lifting stretches. How cruel and wrong is that?

Yet, the me of today, more than likely, due to life experiences since then, might respond differently. Likely, I would say something, at least I would after the light bulb that I was being targeted when on (the old uptaker is still in the slow mode). Odd are I might speak up about the sharing the work load might just help with the hoods. OR I might quip that if I had time for a bathroom break, I might be able to make time to exercise my face.

Possibly after a 90-hour work week (yeah, I worked more than a few of those), I might be exhausted enough to tap into that edgy side of myself, you know that part of us that we all have the creeps out every now and then, and told her to go show someone who wasn't working and actually gave a crap.

Or I might ask if she practiced in a mirror. (A not in-her-face zing that more than likely would have zoomed over her head.)

Characters too, react differently depending on their belief systems, environments, and motivations. How one character might act at the beginning of the book, may differ from how they interact at the end. Depending on where they come from internally, Character A might very well tell someone off, while Character B might run away in tears.

In fiction, as in real life, not everyone is nice. Some people are helpful because they truly care, some have an agenda, some want put other characters in their place, while others want to cause harm.

Those character flaws that cause a character to point out hooded eyelids, for whatever reason, add depth to fictional characters. And as readers, the why of this exhibited flaw being revealed as the story unfolds adds richness, connection, and relatability (either with the particular character or with being treated in such a manner in real life.)

Please excuse me now, I'm off to exercise my face, with a focus on my upper eyelids.

(Wouldn't former co-worker be proud!)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

No Book is Perfect (Repeat After Me!)

NO book is perfect. No BOOK is perfect. No book IS perfect. No book is PERFECT. No matter which aspect you emphasize, no book is perfect. Not ever.

Whether traditionally or independently published, there's always a skipped word or typo or two.

Sometimes the flaws are deeper, such as a supposedly grown man hiding in a car trunk of a model that has a mini-trunk space that in no way could accommodate a full-sized person.

Or even more deeply flawed, as in he or she would NEVER do that. No way could that happen. Plausibility issues are biggies, but books are released more often than a reader would expect with such glitches.

As an author, catching those flaws and fixing them in the revision phase is a doable challenge. Catching typos and missed words, even with multiple reviewers, looms, yet no matter how efficient the effort, something or somethings will slip by.

Book #1 of Series #1 goes to my writing coach for review tomorrow. If she deems the manuscript ready, she will also edit. Or, I'll make another pass, then she will edit. Either way. It's been First Drafted, Revised, and Edited.

Will the book be perfect? Nope.

Will it ever be perfect? No. (No matter how hard an author tries, it ain't gonna happen.)

Yet, once reviewed, edited by the editor, and then returned to me for a final polish, the book will be stick-a-fork-in-it done!

Perfect, no. An imperfect enjoyable, challenging, satisfying journey, oh, yes.